White rose tribute to a ‘perfect young man’

Southlands High School prom ''by Josh Vosper 'prom6 - Deputy head Brian Souter and Headteacher Mark Fowle with Paul Bottomley.
Southlands High School prom ''by Josh Vosper 'prom6 - Deputy head Brian Souter and Headteacher Mark Fowle with Paul Bottomley.
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A Chorley teenager who died before he was able to attend his school prom was remembered by fellow pupils and teachers.

Southland High School leavers wore white roses in memory of Mark Bottomley when they gathered at Rivington Barn, on Friday.

Mark died suddenly in December from a heart virus, just days before he was due to celebrate his 16th birthday.

He was the deputy head boy at the Chorley high school, and should have been joining his friends in their final celebrations after completing his GCSEs.

Instead, Mark’s proud dad Paul took his son’s place at the leavers’ ball, and made a heartfelt speech to his son’s friends and teachers.

He told the Guardian: “It was such an honour to be invited to the prom, and one of Mark’s friends had the idea for everyone to wear a white rose in his memory. They gave me one when I arrived, and it was beautiful to see everyone wearing them.”

Paul had hired a suit especially for the event, and wore the colours of Mark’s favourite football team, Manchester United.

“It was a happy atmosphere,” he said. “But there were many moments of sadness.

“They showed a slideshow of photographs of pupils, and one of them showed the whole year’s group picture at the end of the year. They’d placed a giant white teddy bear in Mark’s seat, which I hadn’t seen before, and that really hit me.”

Paul also asked the DJ to play The Way You Are by Bruno Mars, which was played at Mark’s funeral, and everyone sang along.

“A few people cried, including myself,” he said. “But after that, one of Mark’s friends took everyone outside and we let off some balloons.

“It was a very emotional night, but it was excellent.”

Mark’s mum Susan was also invited to the event, but is still struggling to come to terms with her only child’s death.

“Susan’s still in a really bad way and just couldn’t bring herself to go,” Paul said. “Even though it was hard for me to go, it was a step forward, so I’m grateful for the support from Southlands.”

Pupils and teachers all paid £2 to wear a white rose on the night, and they presented the money to Paul.

He has chosen the charity SADS – Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome – to donate the funds to.

Deputy headteacher Brian Souter said: “It was a very pleasant evening, and a few words were said about Mark.

“It was upsetting, but it was more about respecting him and remembering the good times.

“There’s no question that Mark’s death brought this year group together. They lost a very popular member.

“We’ve had a lot of highs and lows this year, and the biggest low came at Christmas.”

He added: “It was only right that we remembered Mark at the prom. He was a model student and son.

“If you were to model the perfect young man, it would be Mark Bottomley.”